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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  45,055 Ratings  ·  5,417 Reviews
In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. He has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The New York Times Book Review called him simply “a genius.” Now David Mitchell lends fresh credence to The Guardian’s claim that “each of his books seems entirely different from that which preceded it.” The Thousand Autumns of Jacob ...more
ebook, Reader's Circle Edition, 511 pages
Published 2011 by Random House (first published May 13th 2010)
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Chandler Dunn The passage is surely meant to be humorous, but given the context I think the author is implying that a certain Danish sailor is having difficulty…moreThe passage is surely meant to be humorous, but given the context I think the author is implying that a certain Danish sailor is having difficulty with a knot. In nautical lingo "cock," or to "cock-up" something (particularly a knot), means to make a mess of it.

It may somehow be relevant that during this time Finland was part of the Swedish Empire, and Denmark had participated in two successive wars against Sweden in the decades preceding the events of the book.

There may in fact be another two or three more historical references and topical insinuations laden within this single, short sentence that I'm unaware of. Such is the genius of David Mitchell :-)(less)
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Stephen King
In this historical novel, an unassuming Dutch bookkeeper named Jacob de Zoet falls in love with a beautiful midwife in 18th-century Japan. When Miss Aiba-gawa is spirited away to a mountain monastery, Jacob finds the heroism in his soul. Here is a bygone secret world full of charm and horror. Mitchell is best known for Cloud Atlas, which was a literary stunt in this correspondent’s opinion. The Thousand Autumns is far better.
Jul 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remember Dr. Seuss's words, children: "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" In the case of wunderkind writer David Mitchell's THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, you'll set your time machine dial for 1799 and a makeshift Dutch port called Dejima on the shores of Nagasaki, Japan.

But let's take it down another level. You'll start at the port and live with old salts that'll make the Pirates of the Caribbean look like so many Lord Fauntleroys. You'll visit the homes of the secretive Japanese magistrates.
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, snoot
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A shooting star lives and dies in an instant.

I first read this when it was published in paperback, just because it was by Mitchell. I admired the craft of the writing, but overall, I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped: I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, and this seemed a very straightforward narrative in comparison with three of his four preceding books.

Now in 2014, after reading The Bone Clocks, I discover that is the second in the Marinus trilogy and this was the first. Almost immediat
Paul Bryant
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels


Voiceover : Lord Sugar is looking for a historical novelist to invest in. He scoured the country for the very best. Twelve were selected to begin the process. After six weeks of hard battling, only three are left.* It's the Apprentice Week Six!

(We see a montage of the three remaining contestants, David Mitchell, Hilary Mantel and Sarah Waters frantically typing away on laptops).

This week's task : to write a complete historical novel in only seven days. All th
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since discovering David Mitchell a little over a year ago, I have devoured all five of his novels to date. Yet I still cannot say what it is that keeps me impatiently coming back for more.

He is a master of voices. He breathes life into characters quickly and effortlessly. He is not afraid to dive into the unknowable mysteries embedded within us. Time, life, dreams, death. Without the crutches of belief or disbelief, he dances around questions of the soul. His villains are ofttimes as compelling
A transient, dubious point of intersection with a secluded, floating world. Two disparate spheres of influence navigating a treacherous turn of the century wherein the actions of either will determine the course of future events. A clash of civilizations where all involved parties are unwilling to cede even something as basic as acknowledgement to the other. Races laboring under the virulent delusion that skin color predetermines superiority or inferiority. Love in the time of prejudice and mutu ...more
Richard Derus
Rating: two headachey stars out of five

The Publisher Says: In 1799, Jacob de Zoet disembarks on the tiny island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s remotest trading post in a Japan otherwise closed to the outside world. A junior clerk, his task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s corruption.

Cold-shouldered by his compatriots, Jacob earns the trust of a local interpreter and, more dangerously, becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under
Mar 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Mitchell and I had not been introduced before. I knew he had written something about clouds and dreams and this looked pretty so I took it home with me.

It is a book about Jacob de Zoet, who in 1799 arrives as a clerk on Dejima, an artificial island near Nagasaki and the only point of contact between Japan and the outside world. It is also a book about an English ship and a mountain shrine and secret religious cult. It is a book about Orito, Japanese midwife whose face is half burnt but the
'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet' is
witty... fascinating... surprising... magnificent!

Dejima Island where the action takes place (Wikipedia)

This "review" is no more than an opinion. For an excellent and thoroughly comprehensive review, may I suggest that you read Cecily's review:
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Exit Only Through the Sea Gate

"The Thousand Autumns" is set in Nagasaki over a period of almost 20 years beginning in 1799.

Dutch traders are restricted to an island in the harbour called "Dejima".

From the Japanese perspective, its name reflects the fact that it is an "exit island". Dutch ships arrive at and depart from the sea gate, while the Japanese officials and traders access the island through a land gate.

The Dutch are not permitted to enter Japan proper under the isolationist Sakoku pol
On Mitchell's Writing

Mitchell is one of my favourite writers, and I really have to squee about how masterfully he uses words. Here’s an example of his writing in this novel. Mitchell is setting a scene where Jacob is waiting in the antechamber to his new boss’s office. Along the walls of the antechamber are displayed specimens of exotic animals preserved in formaldehyde. As he looks at the specimens, Jacob recalls the events that led him to this place. Now Mitchell could have written it rather c
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last month I was visiting the MFA in Boston. After an hour or two of wandering through rooms sporting giant, bombastic 19th century American paintings, I came upon a dim hall with small, colorful prints hanging from the wall, like this one:

Sugatami Bridge, Omokage Bridge, by Utagawa Hiroshige

This was my first taste of Utagawa Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, and I was immediately transfixed.

Although the Edo referred to in the Hiroshige prints is a place (a city later to be renamed Tokyo), Edo also refers to the period of Japanese hist
Peter Boyle
I almost gave up on this one. If I hadn't read and loved all of David Mitchell's other novels, I think I'd have abandoned ship after the first hundred pages. But I'm glad I stuck with it, even if I do have some reservations about its sprawling story.

The year is 1799. Jacob de Zoet, an eager and resourceful young clerk, arrives in Dejima, a tiny trading outpost in the bay of Nagasaki. Back in the Netherlands he became engaged to the beautiful Anna, and intends to earn his fortune with the Dutch E
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, brits
Is there anything David Mitchell can't do? Dazzling is the word for this. Fizzing with life, it appears at first to be a conventional historical novel, but then swoops into speculative fiction that is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood or Kazuo Ishiguro, with human babies being 'farmed' for nefarious reasons, then back to the historical world and a wonderfully exciting naval stand-off, where Our Hero is saved by his red hair. (You'll have to read it to find out). James Wood, a critic who I admire gr ...more
Nandakishore Varma
The story of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a divide during a turbulent historical period is the staple of many an historical novel. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, at first glane, is just that: however, the author has entered uncharted waters by venturing into an area which is seldom explored in historical novels, by choosing Japan during her international isolation as the venue and making the clerk of the erstwhile Dutch East India company, the unlikely hero.

Jacob de Zoet has joine
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Right in the testicles. That's where this book kicked my suspension of disbelief, landing a crunching, foetal-position-inducing blow that was all the more painful for being unexpected.

I'm a big fan of David Mitchell's work. I love Cloud Atlas and I've given it as a birthday gift to several friends. Ditto for Ghostwritten, a book I greatly respect for it's blend of narratives and voices, and genres. I enjoyed Numberninedream, and thought Black Swan Green was, well, OK. I dig Mitchell's ability to
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, i-own-it
3.5 stars A fascinating historical novel centering around the idea of translation and the suspension between two cultures, two worlds, two loves. I thought it excelled, as Mitchell always does, at witty, realistic dialogue. What it lacked in movement, it made up for in deep character study and a compelling main character. Not my favorite Mitchell, but certainly not my least favorite.
I really enjoyed this book immensely, probably a 4.5 of 5. It's so close to a 5 and someday I may return and decide it is.

The story grabbed me from the start and I believe that has to have some connection to Mitchell's skills as a writer and story teller as well as the story itself as tales of the sea and exploration are usually of no interest to me. His picture of the cultures of the time, both Japanese and the transplanted Europeans, captured my interest from the first pages and always had a f
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was happy to see Mitchell try his hand at historical fiction. While he’s always been considered an immensely skilled writer and a superb storyteller, it's his inventive structuring that seems to bring forth the highest praise. Read Cloud Atlas to see if you agree. With this most recent work, as he said in a post-publication interview, he was trying a more straightforward narrative form – one without gewgaws (I think that was the word he used, or maybe it was “jiggery-pokery”). I’m pleased to r ...more
Oct 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Giving this book three stars doesn't adequately represent its melange of 1-star and 5-star elements. The prose here walks a line between vivid and so purple that it's gushing persimmon juice over your lips... no, that's not quite a direct quote. The romance between two of the characters hangs on just a few meetings, one of which is an awful scene where they teach each other the words for "dew" in their respective languages. The entire middle section of the book rests on a fantastical plot elemen ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas was perhaps my favorite book from last summer. It was an ambitious effort, with multiple genres interwoven, and some really marvelous writing within each segment. It was brilliantly executed, and made me a big fan of Mitchell. Hence I was eager and curious about this novel.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is nothing like Cloud Atlas. It is simply a wonderfully crafted piece of historical fiction, set in a small trading post of the Dutch East Indies Company on a
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books - this was my third or fourth reading of Mitchell's wonderful work that is historical fiction, but also entirely transcendent of the genre.

Set in Nagasaki, Japan on the artificial island of Dejima, the plot revolves around the titular Jacob de Zoet, a clerk with the Dutch East India Company, and Orito, the slightly scarred midwife whose beauty and intelligence captivate Jacob (and other characters besides). But the secondary and peripheral characters are all deeply and c

I am fascinated by language, translating and crossing cultures, and this book was very rich in examples of all these. Some of the most fascinating details were discussions between Jacob de Zoet and his interpreters as they worked to find the right word, often in Japanese. The Dutch and the Japanese were well matched – both demonstrating ruthlessness, and secretiveness. The Japanese knew that the Europeans did not arrive simply to trade, but to potentially colonize and own all. They k
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Mitchell's forte is the creation of fully formed worlds with numerous living, breathing characters, all written in beautiful, engaging prose.

I didn't think the subject matter of this novel would interest me at all (a trading post? a naval battle? not for me) but I was happy to live in this world with these characters while I was reading it. The plot is intricate but not cumbersome; details have meaning.

As in Cloud Atlas, there are recurring phrases and images that echo poetically througho
Red Panda
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this one; I definitely preferred it to Cloud Atlas, the only other Mitchell novel I've read. It's certainly more straightforward, structurally speaking; there is no jumping about in the timestream here. The Thousand Autumns of Jacon de Zoet is simply the story of the titular character's time spent in Japan, set at the turn of the 19th Century.

Mitchell's writing is engaging. There is romance, scandal, action, adventure, betrayal, conspiracy, corruption, heroism and loss to be had here;
Despite my great love for Cloud Atlas (also by Mitchell), The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet did not quite do it for me. I might even go so far as to say that, at times, it felt like The Thousand Visits to the DMV, if the DMV were staffed by highly literate history professors who accompanied every eye-exam and form signing with an exhaustive digression into various arcane automemorabilia that may or may not be quite interesting, excepting the fact that it's the DMV, a successful attendance of ...more
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fourth book of Mitchell's I've read, and from what I know of his books, I'd say they're all vastly different from each other in style, arrangement, content, and tone. But they all have one thing in common--Mitchell's great talent behind them. Some of them also have characters in common which is the main reason why I chose this book to read next. I wanted to visit again with a great character I first read about in The Bone Clocks, then in Slade House. But was I ever surprised to see h ...more
Julie Christine
There is an art to consuming a cup of coffee, particularly if it is the first of the day, when your sleep-fuzzed brain and sluggish muscles yearn for the rush of caffeine. Drink it too quickly, you will burn your tongue and throat and negate the pleasure of its rich warmth curling thickly through your blood. Drink it too slowly and it will cool to a flaccid, bitter memory of what coffee could be.

Reading David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is like consuming that first, vital c

Είμαστε στην Ιαπωνία του 1799, όπου η χώρα είναι απομονωμένη. Κανείς ξένος δεν μπορεί να μπει και κανείς Ιάπωνας δεν μπορεί να βγει. Αλλά υπάρχει και η Ντετζίμα. Η Ντετζίμα είναι ένα τεχνητό νησί υπό την διοίκηση των Ολλανδών, ενωμένο με το λιμάνι στο Ναγκασάκι. Και οι Ολλανδοί αυτοί, έμποροι και ναυτικοί κατά κύριο λόγο, είναι η μόνη επαφή της Ιαπωνίας με τον έξω κόσμο.
Ο Γιάκομπ ντε Ζουτ λοιπόν, υπάλληλος της Ολλανδικής Εμπορικής Εταιρίας, φτάνει στην Ντετζίμα με τον Διοικητή Βόρστενμπος κα
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David Mitchell was born in Southport, Merseyside, in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. Afte ...more
More about David Mitchell
“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.” 212 likes
“Gulls wheel through spokes of sunlight over gracious roofs and dowdy thatch, snatching entrails at the marketplace and escaping over cloistered gardens, spike topped walls and treble-bolted doors. Gulls alight on whitewashed gables, creaking pagodas and dung-ripe stables; circle over towers and cavernous bells and over hidden squares where urns of urine sit by covered wells, watched by mule-drivers, mules and wolf-snouted dogs, ignored by hunch-backed makers of clogs; gather speed up the stoned-in Nakashima River and fly beneath the arches of its bridges, glimpsed form kitchen doors, watched by farmers walking high, stony ridges. Gulls fly through clouds of steam from laundries' vats; over kites unthreading corpses of cats; over scholars glimpsing truth in fragile patterns; over bath-house adulterers, heartbroken slatterns; fishwives dismembering lobsters and crabs; their husbands gutting mackerel on slabs; woodcutters' sons sharpening axes; candle-makers, rolling waxes; flint-eyed officials milking taxes; etiolated lacquerers; mottle-skinned dyers; imprecise soothsayers; unblinking liars; weavers of mats; cutters of rushes; ink-lipped calligraphers dipping brushes; booksellers ruined by unsold books; ladies-in-waiting; tasters; dressers; filching page-boys; runny-nosed cooks; sunless attic nooks where seamstresses prick calloused fingers; limping malingerers; swineherds; swindlers; lip-chewed debtors rich in excuses; heard-it-all creditors tightening nooses; prisoners haunted by happier lives and ageing rakes by other men's wives; skeletal tutors goaded to fits; firemen-turned-looters when occasion permits; tongue-tied witnesses; purchased judges; mothers-in-law nurturing briars and grudges; apothecaries grinding powders with mortars; palanquins carrying not-yet-wed daughters; silent nuns; nine-year-old whores; the once-were-beautiful gnawed by sores; statues of Jizo anointed with posies; syphilitics sneezing through rotted-off noses; potters; barbers; hawkers of oil; tanners; cutlers; carters of night-soil; gate-keepers; bee-keepers; blacksmiths and drapers; torturers; wet-nurses; perjurers; cut-purses; the newborn; the growing; the strong-willed and pliant; the ailing; the dying; the weak and defiant; over the roof of a painter withdrawn first from the world, then his family, and down into a masterpiece that has, in the end, withdrawn from its creator; and around again, where their flight began, over the balcony of the Room of Last Chrysanthemum, where a puddle from last night's rain is evaporating; a puddle in which Magistrate Shiroyama observes the blurred reflections of gulls wheeling through spokes of sunlight. This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that is itself.” 110 likes
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